Royal Gorge, Colorado

Photo by Patrick Alexander

Where in the West Should I Go? • 52 Places to Visit in 2022

You don’t hear much about the Royal Gorge Region, an area southwest of Denver, near Cañon City. It remains one of Colorado’s more accessible, but still semi-hidden gems, with plenty to experience – from “glamping” in wall tents at Echo Canyon Campground to an elegant dinner aboard the Royal Gorge Route Railroad to rafting on the Arkansas River. 

If that’s not enough, you can walk across the Royal Gorge Bridge (you’ll see the aforementioned train and rafters 1,000 feet below), go for some of the thrill rides on the canyon rim, visit a winery, bone up at the Dinosaur Experience, or browse a massive rock shop. 

Cañon City proper is a town of about 16,500 people that straddles the Arkansas River as it flows from the mountains into the Front Range. The small downtown area has locally-owned, historic businesses and buildings. 

Don’t miss the Colorado Prison Museum, located in a women’s correctional facility built in 1935; each of the old cells serves as its own exhibit on different aspects of prison life. It is one of those small, funky museums unlike anything you’ve ever seen (and also a nod to one of the area’s main industries – i.e. hosting some 36,000 inmates in 13 separate prisons, mostly scattered east of town in an area known as “prison valley”).